Thursday, May 3, 2012

Twitter is harder than you think

If you are reading this you probably clicked a link on Twitter, which means you are probably comfortable with Twitter and used to the way it works, but lately I keep finding that people new to Twitter seem to be having trouble with it.  These aren't tech newbies either, one used to work for the other social media giant, another is an educational technology expert, and, okay one is a ninth grader, but still supposedly a digital native right?
Somewhere I read that something like 60% of people who sign up for Twitter stop using it within a month. (Fine, I went and found the source for that.  It was a Neilsen study from 2009, but probably still something close to that percentage.)  Some of them must quit because of time or other commitments, but I think now that there must be a lot of people who feel like they just can't figure it out.

There is a lexicon to Twitter that you have to crack, RT (re-tweet) MT (modified tweet) and all those crazy hashtags. There are the intricate rules about who can see your tweets.  If I tweet to Mary and Bob follows Mary and me then he will see that tweet, but if he only follows me then he won't. Except that there are hundreds of Marys and Bobs and many relationships like that which determine who sees what.

There are direct messages (DM) which are private and @ messages which are not. A friend new to twitter wrote a DM to me announcing to the world that he joined twitter. I pointed out that this was just to me. Another friend decoded Twitter wrong and saw RT as response-to. This caused most of her @ messages to go to all of her followers and it made it look like the person she was responding to was saying something that she was really saying to them. See what I mean about complicated.

The hardest part about Twitter, though is building the relationships. Taking the leap to send an @ message to someone you don't really know. Figuring out who to follow, avoiding spamers (that's another post all together), and wondering if it is worth tweeting to the nine people who followed you.

I get a little frustrated with Twitter experts who send out a tweet during a workshop to show the attendees how "simple" it is to get answers from around the world about a question.  That works great for people like them who have been on twitter for years and amassed thousands of followers, but it almost never works that well for those new to Twitter.

My advice to those newbies is to stick with it if you are following people you like learning from. Don't be afraid to reply to a tweet that interests you. Share a link that you thought was great. Engage in Twitter chats about subjects that interest you. Re-tweet the things you think are valuable. Spend a little time on Twitter each day.  There are amazing people there and they are giving the world a lot to Tweet about.